Mark 31: Worship the King

Mark 12:35-44

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly. 38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Do you remember those students in your class who asked a lot of questions to the teacher and made the class end late? They were annoyances to you and nightmares to the teacher. I was that student. There was one time in class when my professor has a different view than me. He is an egalitarian and I am a complementarian. If you don’t know what those words mean, they are theological terms that describe the role of men and women. Egalitarians believe that men and women are created equal and there is no distinction between the role of men and women. Complementarians believe that although men and women are created equal, they have distinctive unique roles. My professor was presenting his view on egalitarianism, and he gave what I thought was a weak argument for complementarianism. So, do you know what I did? Like every good student in class, I raised my hand. At first, he was excited. “Yes, Yosi? Do you have anything to say?” And I told him I disagreed with him, and I questioned his argument. He thanked me for my comment, and he continued with the lesson. But then he made another weak argument for complementarianism. So, do you know what I did? I raised my hand again. This happened a couple of times to the point that by the end of the lesson, I think he pretended he did not see my hand.

And this is what the religious leaders tried to do with Jesus. They kept asking Jesus hard questions, hoping that they would trap him in a lose-lose situation. They asked him, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” This is a political question. Then they asked him a theological question, “How can you believe in the resurrection of the dead?” And Jesus hit a home run with every question. So, Jesus not only answered their questions, but Jesus also demolished their arguments. To the point that they had enough. They were speechless before Jesus’ infinite wisdom. Their defeat was complete. No one dared to ask Jesus any more questions. So, they are saying among themselves, “Okay, we are done here. There is no point in us continuing. We are just going to make a fool of ourselves.” And as they are about to leave, Jesus says, “Hold on, where are you going? Don’t go anywhere. You’ve been asking me questions all day long. And I took the time to answer all your questions. Now, it is my turn to ask you. I only have one question. Just one. That’s it. I want you and the crowd to answer my question.” How many of you know that it is one thing to question each other theology, it is one thing to question Jesus’ theology, but it is something altogether different when Jesus questions our theology? When the class has no more questions for the professor, the professor has a question for the class. And it is a super difficult important question. With this question, Jesus not only beat the religious leaders, but he also lands the knock-out punch.

Our passage for today marks the end of Jesus’ public teaching in the book of Mark. And Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson on worship. I have three points for my sermon: The object of worship; The false worship; The true worship.

The object of worship

Mark 12:35-37 – 35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

After a day of questions, comes the question of the day. And the question is on the identity of Jesus. The question of Jesus’ identity was previously discussed privately with the disciples. But now Jesus raises the question publicly in the temple of Jerusalem. Jesus is not trying to hide his identity anymore. He is on the offensive. He asks, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” Christ is the Greek term for the Messiah. What Jesus does is he is not denying that the Messiah is from the line of David. The fact that the Messiah is one of David’s descendants is a universally accepted belief among the Jews. There is no argument whatsoever. God promised that the house of David would be restored forever, and the son of David would rule over the kingdom. So, Jesus begins with something that every Jew knew already. The Messiah is the son of David. The scribes teach that. But here is the twist. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110, a psalm written by David.

Psalm 110 is the most quoted Old Testament Scripture in the New Testament. Jesus quotes it, Peter quotes it, and almost the entire argument of the book of Hebrews is based on Psalm 110. What makes it so special? Psalm 110 is unique because the entire Psalm speaks of the coming Messiah, the anointed man from God whom the Jews are waiting for. But who is David talking about? David writes in Psalm 110:1 – The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Now, this is very strange. And this is the point Jesus is making. So, we have two people in a conversation. The LORD and my Lord. We know that the LORD is referring to YHWH, the God of Israel. But who is “my Lord”? And if this “my Lord” is David’s son, why did David call him Lord? If he is just one of David’s descendants, David would not call him Lord.

In Jewish categories, the son is never greater than the father. No father would call his son his Lord. The son is to honour the father, not the other way around. So, if the Messiah is just the descendant of David, David would call him “my son.” The right way of writing it would be, “The LORD said to my son.” But interestingly, David called him “my Lord.” Who is this man? And not only that, then we have the LORD, the God of the universe, telling this man to sit at his right hand until he put this man’s enemies under his feet. In that culture, to sit at the right hand of a king means to share the power and authority of the king. So, who is this man that the God of the universe exalted so highly that David himself called “my Lord”? If I can rephrase it, what David says is, “The LORD God said to my Lord the Messiah.” Do you see what Jesus does? Jesus questions the scribes on their understanding of the Messiah. The scribes are the experts of the day on the Scripture. But Jesus exposes their wrong understanding of the Messiah. Jesus reveals to them a problem no one had seen until Jesus raised it. He asks, “If the Messiah is David’s son, how can he be David’s Lord?” Boom. Jesus drops the bomb.

Don’t miss the point Jesus is making. Jesus is telling them that the Messiah they are waiting for cannot just be an ordinary son of David. He cannot just be a mere man. He is someone whom David calls “my Lord” and someone whom the LORD God exalts to the highest position. The Jews are waiting for a human Messiah, a political figure to rescue them from the reigns of Rome. But Jesus shows them that the Messiah they are waiting for cannot be a mere man. He is someone who is on the same level as the LORD God and yet not the same as the LORD God. The Messiah is not simply David’s son; He is also God’s son. He is David’s King, David’s Lord, David’s Sovereign, before whom David must bow. In other words, Jesus is saying to the scribes, “You have a filter over your mind. You have a human paradigm of what the Messiah is supposed to be. You know the Scripture. You believe the Scripture is inspired by God. So, how do you explain this verse? I have shown you that you are wrong. You do not have the right understanding of the Scripture. Only I can show you what the Messiah is like. Only I can reveal to you whom you should worship.”

Let me tell you what it means for us. Jesus is giving us one of the basic principles of reading and interpreting the Bible. Every culture has its own way of proving whether something is true. It ultimately comes down to two: signs and wisdom. The signs people say, “Show me the miracles. Show me the supernatural power. Show me the proof. Then I will believe you.” They are practical people. They say, “God, I will trust you if you do this and that for me. I will trust you if you heal my cancer. I will trust you if you make me rich. I will trust you if you give me a spouse.” They demand signs for them to trust God. And the signs that they demand are tailored to their needs. They want a God who can give them what they want. On the other hand, the wisdom people say, “Give me a tight argument. Give me absolute logic. Convince me with your reasoning. Then I will believe you.” They are intellectual people. They want God to answer all their questions first before they can trust him. They say, “Explain to me the origin of evil and suffering. Explain to me how God can be three and one. Explain to me why a good God would allow my mom to die of cancer. And if your explanation makes sense, then I’ll trust your God.” They want explanations for everything first before they trust God.

So, one says, “Show me the proof,” and the other says, “Give me solid logical explanations.” Let’s do a quick survey. How many of you are the signs type? How many of you are the wisdom type? Here is what’s amazing about Jesus. Jesus is able to give both. Throughout his life, Jesus performs miracle after miracle. He gives proof of his Messiahship. And Jesus knows how to use logic as well. He answers all the hard questions and exposes the flaws of the scribes’ understanding using logical arguments. And yet that’s not enough to convince the scribes. What Jesus says is, “Listen. If you want to be convinced of the truth, you have to look at me. I am the ultimate sign. I am the ultimate wisdom. You need to remove your filter of what you think I should be like, what you’ve been told I am like, what you wish I am like, and see me for who I really am. If you see me talking and walking, if you see me in the Scripture for who I really am, the only conclusion you will come up with to explain who I am is I cannot be just David’s son; I must be God’s Son.” And friends, this is how we must interpret everything we read in the Bible. We must interpret everything in the bible through the lens of Jesus. I love the way Alistair Begg puts it. “The whole Bible is about Jesus. All pointing forward to him. All emerging from him. That’s why when we take our eyes off Jesus, we immediately lose our way around the Bible.” If we take our eyes off Jesus, we will get side-tracked. We will focus on the trees and miss the forest. But Jesus is the focus of the Bible. Jesus is the fulfilment of everything in the Bible. He is the king of the universe. He is the main character in the story. That is why Jesus is the object of our worship.

The false worship

Mark 12:38-39 – 38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

So, after Jesus asks an unanswerable question, Jesus gives the crowd a strong warning. He says, “Beware of the scribes.” Now, remember where Jesus is. Jesus is in the temple of Jerusalem. He is in the scribes’ territory. But Jesus pulls no punches. The people admire the scribes. But Jesus openly rebukes the scribes in front of the crowd. And Jesus tells them why they need to beware of the scribes. Jesus exposes three problems. First, they are prideful. They like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces. If you are wearing a long coat to church today, you are feeling awkward right now. But that’s not Jesus’ point. There is nothing wrong with wearing a long coat. This is not simply a comment on their style of dress. But this is a rebuke that they dressed in a particular way that would make people say, “Do you see that person with a long robe? Now, that’s an important person. Because only an important person would wear that long robe.” They dressed in such a way to show that they are more important than other people. They loved to impress others with their appearance. FYI, that’s why I’m not wearing a suit today. And they loved that when people in the marketplace noticed them because of their long robes, people would get on their feet and say, “Good morning, Mr Scribe YYY. I hope you will have a lovely day.” It makes them feel special. And when they get to the synagogues, they have the best seats in the house. Those seats do not face in the same direction as the congregation, but those seats look out upon the congregation. Imagine you enter this church, and you see chairs on the stage facing toward you. And I and the RSI leaders would sit on those chairs. And during worship, you can see us staring at you and you staring at us. We stare at each other. It’s awkward. And only those who are special get to sit on the stage. And the same applies when they go to weddings. They do not need to waste their time looking to see what table number they have. They know what table number they have. They have the top table. Why wouldn’t they get the best seat? They are the scribes. And Jesus says, “Beware of their pride.” That’s the first problem.

The second problem, they are greedy. They devour widow’s houses. What does that mean? Apparently, they eat houses. Okay, that is not what it means. The scribes are not allowed to be paid for being scribes. But what they can do is trade. So, they can say, “If you are nice to me, if you are kind to me, then you will get a real blessing. Because, after all, you know who I am right? I am a scribe. I am favoured by God and those who are nice to me will also receive favour from God.” This is what they do. And they particularly do it to widows. Why? Because in that day, widows are the most vulnerable, most dependent, and most easily exploited groups of people. They no longer have their husbands, and they fall easily for scams because they are frightened and insecure. That’s why God commanded the Israelites to care for the poor and the widows. But rather than defending the widows, the scribes take advantage of them. They prey on the weak to make money. And this is something that happens all the time today. We hear it all the time on the Christian channel. If we turn on a Christian channel, it won’t be long before we see some guy in a suit and tie that promises that if we send money to support their ministry, then God will bless us with health and wealth. “Oh, I feel the anointing now. Yes, Lord. What is it? Okay. The Lord has just told me that if you send your money to my ministry in the next 6 hours, God will bless you hundred times. So, if you send $50, God will bless you with $5000. But it must be done in the next six hours or else you won’t receive the hundredfold blessing. Transfer now to the account number listed below and email the receipt to” And do you know who most likely falls for their schemes? The desperate people. Those who only have $50 in their bank account. Those who do not know how they are going to make ends meet. Those who do not know how they are going to pay their rent. These pastors are making money out of desperate people with the promise of false blessings. And Jesus says, “Beware of their greed.” That’s the second problem.

The third problem, they are hypocrites. What the scribes are doing is preying on the widows and covering it up by praying for the widows. They say a long prayer and pretend to pray for them while making money out of them. Their prayers are empty. It is meaningless. And Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes. Beware of their pride. Beware of their greed. Beware of their hypocrisy.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there. What he says next is frightening. He says, “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Do not miss the warning. The Bible tells us that there are degrees of rewards in heaven. But apparently, there are also degrees of punishment in hell. Those who are acting like the scribes will receive the greater condemnation. This is a strong warning to everyone who teaches the Bible. Teaching the Bible is not a way to gain prominence. Listen to the way James put it. James 3:1 – Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. This is a very sobering text for me. The greater the revelation, the greater the responsibility, the greater the accountability. I am accountable before God for every sermon I preach from this pulpit. I may have a large following but if I do not teach the Bible correctly, God will judge me for it. I can’t use the excuse, “I didn’t know any better at the time.” It is my responsibility to know the Bible and teach the Bible correctly.

So, Jesus is giving us a warning of false worship. We can wear the right clothes, we can have the respect of people, we can have the best seats in the house, we can be active in ministry, we can pray long prayers, but it is meaningless. What matters to Jesus is not what we wear, what people call us, where we get to sit, how busy we are in ministry, what we say in prayer, but who we are on the inside. Everything on the outside is superficial. We can look like great Christians on the outside but worship something else on the inside. This is false worship. Men look at appearance, but God looks at the heart. So, the questions for us tonight are: Do we care more about what people see or what God sees? Do we want to be godly or are we content simply for people to think that we are godly? Do we love people for their own sake or for what we can gain from them? Ultimately, do we love God for God or for what we want from God? Because it is possible to look excellent on the outside and yet rotten on the inside. It is possible to look like we are worshipping God with our lives while worshipping idols with our hearts. This is false worship.

The true worship

Mark 12:41-44 – 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

So right after Jesus gives a strong warning about the scribes, Jesus finds a place to sit. He’s been standing and teaching all day. He needs a break. And Jesus intentionally chooses a very odd place to sit. He sits right in front of the offering box. As if that’s not strange enough, Jesus then watches people give their offerings. Imagine if I do that. So, during offering time, you must walk to the offering box and put your offerings into the box, while I sit in front of the box watching you give. That’s weird. But that’s what Jesus does. And if I was a certain kind of preacher, at this time I would say, “When you give your offering, just remember, Jesus is watching.” But I am not that kind of preacher. So, I won’t go there. But it is true though. Jesus intentionally watches people give their offerings. Because there is an important lesson that Jesus wants to teach through it. Our offerings are not simply a matter of the amount of money we give to God. Our offerings reveal what is inside our hearts. Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. This is not about money. This is about the heart. There is something about money that reveals the state of our hearts. One of the best gauges of whether God has our hearts is our offerings. Money is a good indicator of the condition of our hearts.

This story is the story of the most famous offering in history. And it is a stark contrast to the scribes. The scribes have rich appearances but poor hearts. But in this story, we find a widow with a poor appearance but a rich heart. So, as Jesus sits and watches people give their offerings, he notices many rich people put a lot of money into the offering box. Back in that day, they don’t have back cheques, paper currency, or online transfers. The only way for people to give offerings is to bring coins and put them in the offering box. And every time the coins are put in the box, it would make a sound. And the sound gives some indication of how much is put in the offering box. So, many rich people come, and we can hear the sound as they open their bags of coins and drop the money into the offering box. “Krincing krincing krincing…” And people like, “Ohhh. Ahhh. Wowww. Did you hear that krincing sound? Look at how much they give. They are very generous.” The more they give, the bigger noise they make, the greater attention they draw. Their offerings impress many people. I remember many years ago, there was a very rich person who gave a large offering to our church. He was speaking from the pulpit, and he was telling everyone in the church that God told him to sow a large seed into our church. He said God told him to give $100,000. And everyone was like clapping and giving him a standing ovation. True story. By the way, if God tells you to give $100,000 to our church, and you want applause and a standing ovation for it, I’ll gladly do it. But not in here, in the office. The rich people impress many people with their offerings. But not Jesus. Jesus is unmoved at all by their offerings.

But then comes a poor widow. And the last thing this poor widow wants is attention. Because she doesn’t have much to offer. She might feel ashamed of how little she gives. So, she walks to the offering box and quietly puts her offerings inside the box. And it barely makes any sound. Mark tells us that she gives two small copper coins. And this is the smallest coin in circulation. The coin is worth 1/64 of a denarius. And a denarius is a day’s wages. For the sake of illustration, let’s say that she puts in two $0.50 coins. She gives $1 in total. That’s all. Her offering is unnoticeable. Her offering does not make any impressive sound. It does not draw the crowd’s attention. But it draws Jesus’ attention. Jesus notices her and Jesus inwardly applauds this woman and gives her a standing ovation.

Jesus is so impressed with this widow’s offering that he quickly gathers his disciples for a teaching lesson. “Matthew, James, John, others, did you see that?” And Judas probably reply, “Yeah, I see Sir Buffet puts $10,000 in the offering box. Maybe we should name a building after him.” Then Phillip says, “I see Rabbi Musk puts $5,000 in the offering box. He is very kind and generous.” And Jesus says, “No. Not them. Do you see that poor widow there? Let me tell you something about her. That poor widow gives more than what Sir Buffet and Rabbi Musk put in the offering box.” Okay, pause. This is strange. The widow only puts $1 in the offering box. What kind of mathematical formula does Jesus use to conclude that $1 is more than $10,000? In financial terms, this is an unworthy comparison. Let’s be real. This widow’s offering contributes to nothing. It does not make any difference whether she gives or not. The person who counts the temple’s offering would not say, “Bad news. We are down by $1 today. This is a massive blow to the temple’s income.” No. Who is going to miss $1? But Jesus says she gives more than the rich people. Do you know why? Because though the amount of her gift is the smallest, her sacrifice is the greatest. Think about it. All the rich people give their offerings out of their abundance. But this widow gives her offering out of her lack. Those two copper coins are all she has. I mean, she could have kept one coin for herself. In fact, no one would have blamed her if she doesn’t give anything. She needs the money for herself. But on this Passover week, she comes to the temple, and she silently says to God, “God, this is all I have. I know this is not much at all. I know this is worth nothing. But I love you. And you deserve my everything. So here are my two coins. All I have is yours.” And she put all she has into the offering box. And Jesus says, “Take note of her. Learn from her. Because she gives more than other people.” Listen. It is not the amount of the offering that makes the difference; it is the posture of the heart that makes all the difference.

Let’s get more personal. For most of us, our offerings involve no sacrifice at all. Our gifts hardly cost us anything. Let’s be honest. When we give our offerings, we always give after everything else is taken care of. Am I right? Do we eat less because of our offerings? Do we travel less because of our offerings? Do we shop less because of our offerings? No, we don’t. We just give money. But not this woman. This poor widow makes a costly sacrifice. She puts everything she has into the offering box. Others give from their surplus. She gives from her need. Jesus does not compare her offering to other people’s offerings. Jesus compares her offering to what she has. Other people might give $10,000 but it is only 1% of what they have. This woman gives $1 but it is 100% of what she has. And this text asks us a very painful question. Are we giving God our best or our leftover? Because listen. What we give God reveals the condition of our hearts. It reveals whether our worship is true worship or false worship.

Let me put it this way. One day a chicken and a pig decide to start a business together. The chicken says to the pig, “I have a good business proposal for you that will guarantee success. Are you interested?” The pig replies, “What kind of business?” The chicken says, “The bacon and egg business. It is a guaranteed success. Everyone would want it for breakfast.” And the pig replies, “Wait a minute. That’s not fair. For you, that would be a contribution. For me, it’s a sacrifice.” The chicken contributed eggs. That’s about it. But bacon, that’s a whole different story. The pig must commit all it has. The pig must die to produce bacon. That’s a sacrifice. And that’s the kind of woman this widow is. And this text is asking us, are we egg Christians? Or are we bacon Christians? I know it sounds weird, but it makes the point. And get this. It’s not about how much we give; it is about how much it cost us to give. It’s not about the amount given but the cost to the giver. So, if we give $10,000 out of our leftovers and another person gives $10 because it is all he has and he wants God to have it, Jesus says what is less in the eyes of the world is more in his eyes. I might be impressed with your $10,000 and I might treat you Lestari for it, but Jesus is not impressed at all. Because you are not giving God your best.

And here is the point. What we do with our money is an indicator of how we feel about God. Once again, it is never about money; It is about our hearts. Who or what do we worship? Because we always give our best to the object of our worship. This story concludes Mark’s account of Jesus’ public ministry. And Mark gives us a model of true worship. True worship comes from the heart that is willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. If the scribes’ worship is all about appearance, this widow’s worship is all about the heart. Let’s be clear. Jesus does not need our money. But Jesus wants our hearts. And whatever has our hearts has our money. Our use of money tells us where our hearts are. So, what do our offerings say about us? Do we give God our best? Or do we give him our leftovers? Do we give to win the applause of people? Or do we still give when no one is watching? Are we content with no one noticing our offerings but Jesus? When we truly worship Jesus, we will give generously.

And here is what I want us to consider, and I’m done. Tonight, my goal is not to guilt-trip you into giving more money to the church. If you think the application of the sermon is, “Okay, let me give $1,000 for the offering today instead of my usual $10,” you are missing the point. The question is not, “How much should I give?” That’s shallow. The question is, “How big is Jesus in my life?” Do you realize how much Jesus has sacrificed for you? Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 – I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Paul is very clear that he does not want to command giving. But he wants us to consider what God has given us and prove that our love is genuine. Paul wants us to consider the gospel. And Paul puts the gospel in economic terms. Think about Jesus. Jesus was extremely rich. Jesus owned the heaven and the earth. He created everything. He was lavished in glory, majesty, and perfection. He had all the riches in the universe, and yet he became poor. He became mortal. He became weak. He left his glory and walked on earth for 33 years as a man who did not possess anything. He was the richest person in the universe, and he became the poorest of criminals. If the widow gave all her money, Jesus not only gave his money but his life and blood. Jesus literally gave everything he had. At the cross, Jesus was devoured and experienced the greatest condemnation. Why did he do it? He did it for you. He did it for me. He traded places with us. He traded our condemnations for his blessings. For our sake, he became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich. If we see him do that, if we see Jesus lose everything at the cross for us, if we see David’s Lord become David’s son for us, it melts our hearts. It enables us to trust him fully and completely. And if the God of the universe gave everything he had for us, why wouldn’t we trust him with everything we have? Let’s pray.

Discussion questions:

  1. What struck you the most from this sermon?
  2. Are you more of the signs or wisdom people? Explain.
  3. Out of the three warnings against the scribes, which one do you think is the most prevalent in our society? Why?
  4. In your own words, what is the difference between false worship and true worship?
  5. Explain the relationship between our offerings and our hearts.
  6. How does the gospel shape generosity?
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